No gaming licence application has been made for a pending Macau hotel project known as The 13 (pictured), said a senior Macau government official on Thursday.
Lionel Leong Vai Tac, Secretary for Economy and Finance, was speaking on the sidelines of the 22nd Macao International Trade and Investment Fair, known as MIF, held at the Venetian Macao casino resort on Cotai.
Mr Leong also referred to The 13 as being in “Coloane”. The promoters of the scheme – Hong Kong-listed The 13 Holdings Ltd – describe the scheme as being on Cotai, which is known internationally for its strip of new casino resorts.
The venue promoter has in the past mentioned plans for a casino at the property, but has made no reference in its more recent releases about the possibility of gaming facilities at the venue. As The 13 Holdings is not one of Macau’s six licensed gaming concessionaires, it would need either to have a deal with one of them for a so-called service agreement, piggybacking on its licence – in order to operate its asset as a “satellite” property – or even to sell majority equity ownership in its asset to one of the six licensees, in order to advance the possibility of bringing gaming to the site.
In mid-September the director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, said her office had processed all the paperwork needed to license The 13 as a hotel, but had been waiting for the promoter to request a site inspection in order to complete licensing formalities.
Secretary Leong stated on Thursday: “When we receive a [gaming] application, especially for the Coloane area, we’ll forward it to the related planning department, for them to give us feedback, then we’ll handle it accordingly.”
He stressed that the location of The 13 in Coloane need not in itself be a barrier to having a casino.
Coloane no bar
“At the moment, legally, there’s no concept of a ‘no go’ area for casinos,” stated the official.
“Even so, we’ll ask the planning department to give us an opinion on the matter. But so far we have not received any application,” he added.
In July 2015 Mr Leong had outlined – in response to a query from a legislator in the city’s Legislative Assembly – that there were no restrictions in existing legislation to bar casinos from being built in Coloane.
In a note this July, brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd had raised doubts about the possibility of The 13 opening this year. “Under the assumption that the company is able to raise sufficient capital we would not be surprised if the opening [of The 13] were to slip into early 2018 given the time-consuming process of restarting what has become a stalled project,” stated at the time analyst Grant Govertsen.
The impasse over The 13 comes at a time when – across the city in the traditional downtown casino district – a new-to-market casino hotel, the Royal Dragon, operating as a satellite under SJM Holdings Ltd’s licence, has been authorised to open.
Mr Leong added in response on Thursday to a question about whether there might eventually be a seventh casino concession added to the Macau market as part of the refreshment process of the city’s gaming licences: “The gaming industry – especially after the [current] gaming licences have expired – [and] the related policy, have to fit these [following] principles. Firstly, they have to fit with the goal of Macau becoming a world-class tourism and leisure centre. Secondly, we [Macau] have to be competitive globally. So we’ll listen to the different voices in society, and analyse them.”
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"The initial expectation for the October Golden Week was that the Cotai casino resorts might see an average occupancy rate at 80 percent to 90 percent. But that rate now might stand at just 50 percent to 60 percent... following Macau’s news of the new Covid-19 infection cases”
Andy Wu Keng Kuong
President of the Macau Travel Industry Council